Category : Featured

Submit a paper to TNC16 – Building the Internet of People

EUNIS has for a long time had a strategic partnership with GEANT. Each year the two organisations interchange presenters at each others annual conferences. The call for papers to TNC has now opened and can be found at the TNC website.

Submit a proposal (single presentation or full session) for TNC16. The theme of TNC16 is ‘Building the Internet of People’. The conference will be held from 12-16 June 2016 in Prague, Czech Republic, organised by GÉANT and hosted by the Czech National Research and Education Network (CESNET).

Deadline for submission (presentation abstracts and session proposals) is 30 November 2015

The death of the amphitheater

amphiAsserting that it could be replaced by videos distributed via the Web seems to have condemned lecturing from the chair together with the amphitheater. Being pushed in the forefront by the MOOC movement, videos would close all lecture halls, students would become active in their learning. In short it would revolutionize teaching and send the traditional university in the dungeon. Moreover, it would make big savings by recovering these spaces and allowing one single teacher, the best one if possible, to teach worldwide via the Internet. A dream for those considering the university as any capitalist enterprise: investment and productivity gain!

Yet it is not so simple. Is the amphitheater really dead, watching videos will really replace it? And more generally can technology solve all the troubles of teaching and learning in the 21st century?

It is fashionable to illustrate conferences with images of the old times, showing students asleep in front of a distinguished professor delivering his course from the pulpit, meaning that “nothing has changed “. I could not resist illustrating this blog with a very well known picture. Look at it carefully. The teacher is reading his notes, not caring at all about his students. Some sleep, some read another book – today they would watch their tablets and computers.

My experience is much more nuanced. I was lucky, as a student and as a teacher in Science, to work in small amphitheaters; however I recognize that, even in the presence of a few dozen people, a one-way discourse may be rather boring. The university of Oxford, also, which has an exceptional tradition of providing to each student a personal tutor, who follows him/her continuously, see amphitheaters being deserted. This phenomenon is widespread in all Western countries.

Does this mean that courses delivered from the chair in the amphitheater are obsolete and should vanish?

Curiously some students resist: when we set up, in 2007 in my university, live broadcast lectures so that the students whom we could not accommodate in one theater only, could follow their courses from home, the rumor ran that we would suppress the lecture and deliver only videos. The Dean had to come down in the amphitheater to overturn this rumor. Yet this teaching was quite grotesque: the capacity of the hall is limited to 500 students and we enrolled more than 2000 in that course so that we had to establish a rotation of groups so that everyone could attend periodically some of the lectures. Students were worried about the disappearance of the face-to-face time and the amphitheater was always packed, when, at the same time, a thousand of those from the other groups, followed from a distance, mostly in real time! The same attitude was noted at EPFL, in Lausanne, a pioneer in Europe in the use of MOOCs. They have suppress a number of parallel courses in the first year of study and many students gather in their beautiful Rolex center, to watch the videos of their courses instead of the past amphitheater presentation. However some do not appreciate this new way of delivering knowledge. EPFL officials are not convinced that they will never suppress all first year amphitheaters.

So the good old amphitheater is not dead. Imaginative teachers have sought ways to make it more lively and students more active. Among the most innovative ideas, the use of clickers individual boxes or smartphones. The course is divided into short sequences of about 15 minutes and, in between, the teacher asks questions and makes the participants vote with their device. Responses are anonymous, so no risk of feeling ridiculous in front of their comrades; it’s fun because the questions are short, simple in appearance and it regularly breaks the rhythm. The pedagogy becomes active. One may build interactive scenarios where students must work together with their neighbors, then confirm or change their previous vote and invent many other activities. Students engage in a real active thinking: this shows that flipped pedagogy can be used in the traditional amphitheater. For those objecting that not all students possess smartphones and that providing clickers is expensive, there is a cheaper way: students can vote by showing one of four different colored circles printed on a piece of paper. An app, on an Android smartphone allows the teacher to count the votes photographing the audience.

Does this mean that video is unnecessary, at least for students on campus? Absolutely not! Our experience, shared by many colleagues, is that recording a course improves the quality of learning. Students no longer frantically take notes. They know that if their notes are incomplete, they can always come back later to the video. They listen better and the teachers earn a lot of freedom because he can afford additional illustrations, knowing that all students can pick them up in online videos.

Confrontation of ideas in face-to-face exchanges remains an important dimension in education. Technology is a big opportunity to transform the pedagogy but does not improve teaching and learning by itself. What is important is how it is used. The same applies to the old approach and I strongly believe that they have go together in the future.

Education & Training 2020 – EC strategic framework

The European Commission has announced a sharpened set of priorities for European Education and Training 2020 (ET2020). The new six priorities are the following:

1. Relevant and high-quality skills and competences for employability, innovation, active citizenship;

2. Inclusive education, equality, non-discrimination, civic competences;

3. Open and innovative education and training, including by fully embracing the digital era;

4. Strong support for educators;

5. Transparency and recognition of skills and qualifications;

6. Sustainable investment, performance and efficiency of education and training systems.

In order to identify the new ET 2020 priorities, a mid-term stocktaking was conducted, by means of an independent evaluation, national reports, and in-depth consultations with senior officials from national governments, European social partners and education and training stakeholders.

The stocktaking was rounded-up by a dedicated policy debate at the Education Council of 18 May 2015.

The conclusions of the mid-term stocktaking are reflected in the draft ET 2020 Joint Report, presented by the European Commission on the 8th of September. This draft Joint Report is now transmitted to the Council where it is expected to be adopted later this year.

CHEITA Complexity Index

The Coalition of Higher Education Information Technology Associations (CHEITA) comprises representatives from associations throughout the world that promote the use of information technology in higher education. CHEITA was established in 2011 to share best practice across member associations and, by extension, the individual institutions that make up those associations. EUNIS has taken an active part of this group.

As a subset of CHEITA the CHEITA Benchmarking Working Group was created to explore the viability of benchmarking IT in higher education on a global scale and identify a way to undertake such an initiative. The result of those efforts was the development of the CHEITA Global Complexity Index described in a paper that was published this summer

Join the European survey on digital and on-line learning till Sep, 28

You may know that EUNIS participates actively in the Working Group on digital and on-line learning of the Directorate Education and Culture in Brussels. Our representative has been asked to disseminate the following demand among our members to respond to a survey on digital and on-line learning.

We, at EUNIS, would appreciate your participation to make the opinion of the true experts in the European universities heard. It would also show to the Brussels authorities that EUNIS is a partner of importance. They are awaiting your answer and the dead line has been extended to September 28th to give EUNIS members the time to answer.

You may access the survey by using this link . Thank you in advance for your participation.

“On behalf of the European Commission, Directorate Education and Culture (DG EAC), the Danish Technological Institute is conducting a survey on digital and online learning. The Member State Working Group on digital and on-line learning (WG-DOL) is established in the context of the Open Method of Coordination under the ET 2020 strategic framework for European cooperation on education and training.

The main aim of the working group is to foster mutual learning between Member States and to further policy development on digital and online learning.  To support that Member States are kindly invited to respond to the survey with focus on respectively the school sector and the higher education sector. The aim of the survey is to get insights into policies and practices on digital and online learning, priorities for collaboration and potential barriers to further mainstreaming.

Moreover, the survey aims to get an understanding of how digital and online learning is evolving in the Member States from the perspective of policy makers and to promote PLA within the WG-DOL.

We would appreciate that the survey is completed by yourself or other senior officials with responsibility for digital and online learning. We are aware that you may have varied level of knowledge on the situation for a particular education sub-sector.

We therefore propose that you invite other senior officials with expertise in digital and online learning complementary to your own expertise to complete the survey in order to get a broader picture of the state of play in your country. In countries with decentralized education systems you may also wish to provide some insights into the situation at the regional level, and you may therefore want to ask regional senior officials with responsibilities in digital and online learning to complete the survey.”